“NOLA” is a somewhat in-the-know way to say New Orleans, and it is the driving force behind Q&A Restaurant and Oyster Bar in downtown Oceanside.
I should also note that Q&A is part of the Brick Hotel, Frankie’s Oceanside cocktail bar and CocoCabana, a rooftop tropical cocktail bar, all from Grind & Prosper Hospitality. Q&A is derived from culinary director Quinnton “Q” Austin and is the North County extension of the Louisiana Purchase in North Park.
The Brick Hotel is the foundation of these great establishments, a building with a storied history and a place worthy of a staycation base camp. The building was initially constructed in 1888 as the town’s first hardware store, the historic brick structure has seen many lives over the past 130-plus years.
In 2022, the building opened its doors to guests as The Brick Hotel. Historic touches can be found in each room, from the 1880s-era bricks lining the walls to the wood luggage rack in the closet made from the original lumber that dates back over a century.
With just 10 unique rooms, it truly is a boutique hotel. Its location in the heart of the revitalized downtown Oceanside and all its on-premises restaurants and bars make it a desired place for locals and tourists alike.
My visit focused on Q&A, though, as I had an opportunity to record an interview for Lick the Plate Radio on The Mightier 1090 with executive chef and culinary director Quinnton Austin. Our conversation covered him growing up in New Orleans, including being displaced by Hurricane Katrina, his early kitchen gigs, and some of the more notable stops that shaped his culinary style.
We also tasted some of his musical memories from being immersed in one of the more vibrant music scenes worldwide. You can listen to that conversation at www.lick-the-plate.com.
Quinnton trained at the Culinary Institute of New Orleans and then spent 15 years cooking in Louisiana. Chef Q has a long list of stellar kitchens on his resume, including Antoine’s — serving 700 people at lunchtime on average — Dickie Brennan’s, Copeland’s, Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris.
This impressive (and extensive) list was part of his plan to learn as many cooking styles and cultural tastes as possible in the New Orleans restaurant scene’s highly competitive culinary environment. In 2018, Chef Q landed in San Diego to join Grind & Prosper Hospitality and open Louisiana Purchase in North Park.
Being a huge fan of oysters and New Orleans-style cuisine, I was excited for the meal that awaited later that night. Given our location, I had to start with a cocktail, and the King Creole with a house rum blend, creole shrub, caramelized pineapple and cinnamon made me feel like I was sitting on Bourbon Street in the Big Easy. The cocktail menu is loaded with NOLA favorites, including the infamous Hurricane.
Oysters were next up, and I’ll say up front that Q&A is an oyster lover’s paradise. They divide their offerings into regions, including Gulf Coast, East Coast and West Coast, with more detailed sub-regions within each.
Five preparations include Poppa Legba, charbroiled with sriracha lime butter sauce, ghost pepper, cilantro and lime. Oyster Shooters with house pickled vodka and a French Quarter house bloody mix. Raw Oysters are offered, along with Charbroiled with Cajun spice, garlic-lemon butter and parmesan.
And finally, my selection was the Oysters Rockefeller, charbroiled with spinach artichoke, herbs and parmesan. It’d been a while since I’d had a cooked oyster with that fantastic mix of toppings, and it was delightful.
Chef Q mentioned in our interview that his fried chicken was inspired by his grandmother, and being the lover of fried chicken that I am, I had to try it. The dish, Chicken Man, included two giant wings and a thigh, and they were spectacular.
My companion had the Seafood Crepe with garlic cream, a seafood blend, potatoes and broccolini, which was also quite tasty. We planned to sample three dishes, but the two we tried were so sizeable we left it at that.
So I will return for the Gumbo, Shrimp Creole N Grits, Crawfish Etouffee Catfish, Soft Shell Crab Salad, Crawfish Garlic Wings, the Prawn Jambalaya and the Frenchmen Strip Steak with a crawfish Monica sauce. I’ll save room for the only dessert on the menu, the NOLA classic Beignets.
Next time back, I will also take a Lyft or Uber and partake in the rooftop bar for a happy hour before indulging in this fabulous New Orleans-inspired fare from a chef who does it as authentically as anyone.
Find Q&A at 408 Pier View Way, Oceanside or www.shuckwitus.com